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Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Holy Hill Honeymoon

I just looked up my name on Google and found this old blog post I put up on another site in 2005 I think it was. The story still makes me laugh. I used it as the start to my novel Don't Worry Baby. Here's the old blog post . . . . 

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

The UEC’s young people made me write a book! . . . And move back to Milwaukee!

 1958, City of Milwaukee, corner of Beckett and Glendale Avenues,
beside my house - I'm on the right.

My brother and my neighbor and I are sitting on a sewer cover, making mud pies.

Glendale Avenue is behind us, before the concrete went in.

How a book gets a start 

I’m a writer and a nature nut. In 2013, with five books published, I realized that none of them were the book I really wanted to write. 

I felt inspired to write a book about young people and nature. But where to start? . . .  Fiction? . . . Nonfiction? . . . A combination of the two? I shared my conundrum with a nature-loving friend, Mike Larson, visitor services manager at the Urban Ecology Center (UEC).

He suggested, “Why don’t you come to Riverside? We’ll walk around and talk about your ideas.”

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Frustration dreams

I hate frustration dreams.

I had a real champeen of a frustration dream last night.

I was in a huge warehouse-like place, trying to get a car wash. There was a long wait. . . and wait . . . and wait. I had a brand-new tiny black kitten in the car with me. I loved that kitten.

Finally I got my car washed, but they forgot to charge me. So I left my car to go give them my money, but got stuck in a line, where I waited. . . and waited. . . and waited.

I eventually gave up on ever getting the chance to pay, and I returned to my where I had left my car. My key worked but it was the wrong car. I talked to an attendant nearby, and he told me that he had moved my car. 

Sure enough, I found my car. But the kitten was gone! Of course the man who moved the car didn't realize the kitten was inside.

I searched and quickly found the little black purring ball of fur. I was happy and I finally drove off.

What are frustrations dreams about? One I get from time to time is that I have to take a final exam in college but don't know what building the exam is being held in. They say a lot of people get those dreams, especially if they were conscientious students.

I don't know why I get them; all I know is that I hate them! . . . although I do laugh at them afterward. 

I wonder about other people . . . does everyone have frustration dreams?

Gail Grenier is the author of Dog Woman, Don't Worry Baby, Dessert First, and Calling All Horses, all available at

Wait until eight . . . for smart phones????

Children give us answers, if we watch them.

Yesterday I took care of three of my grandsons and four of my "borrowed" grandchildren. The borrowed ones aren't blood, but they are dear to me and I've visited them nearly every week as they've grown up.

My husband has been doing a carpentry project in the basement, so to make room, we pushed a bunch of kitchen chairs to one side. Those chairs all in a row reminded me of playing "train" when I was little.

So yesterday, I asked the kids if they'd like to play train. They were on that idea immediately. What followed was about an hour of switching seats, getting "on" and "off" the train, handing pretend tickets to whoever was the conductor at the time, and choosing destinations. 

They also dressed up - in the pictures above, you can see Simon (the conductor) wearing my husband's old cap from the U.S. Coast Guard. And you'll notice that Ariella is adorned with as many leis as she could find in the dress-up bin.

The children's destinations included "Denver, to visit Natalie," "the ball," "the party," and (my favorite) "to see the fish in TheWaukee." (We live in Milwaukee.)

I was thinking how much fun kids can have when left to their own imaginations, when I heard a radio show about a woman who is driving a campaign to inspire parents to hold off giving smart phones to their children. I thought, great! Then I heard the title of the campaign: "Wait 'till they're eight."

WHA ---???????

There aren't enough exclamation points for me to express how I feel about this. 

Childhood is a fairly modern construct. Kids worked like pack mules through much of history. Who can forget the pictures of the soot-stained, hollow-eyed youngsters who worked during the Industrial Revolution?

Part of preserving childhood is allowing young ones the freedom to not worry about certain things. A smart phone adds layers of awareness and worry about things a child doesn't have to bother with. I could go into detail but anyone connected to phones and the Internet knows what I'm talking about.

My vote: keep childhood a time of kitchen chair basement trains and trips to TheWaukee.

Gail Grenier is the author of Don't Worry Baby, Dog Woman, Calling All Horses, and Dessert First, all available at

Friday, September 29, 2017

Bullets Have No Eyes Part 3 – “The Vietnam War” TV series

I watched the last episode of “The Vietnam War” last night and was glad I was home alone. The section about The Wall finally drew the ugly sobbing that had been welling inside me while I watched the other nights of the broadcast.

Thank you, Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, for this 10-part documentary that took 10 years of your lives to create. Thank you to the sponsors who must have donated a gazillion dollars just to get official permissions to use some of the most soulful contemporary music ever written in our county. Thank you to PBS. I’ll be donating more than the pennies I’ve been giving in the past.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

"Bullets Have No Eyes" Part 2 - Reflections on "The Vietnam War"

I was a high school student from 1964 – 1968, a college student from 1968 – 1972, and a young married adult for the remainder of the Vietnam War years. Only my parents and my education had more influence on shaping me than that war.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Bullets have no eyes: Ken Burns and "The Vietnam War"

Can I watch this?

The Vietnam War helped to make me who I am today. I didn’t fight over there, but I fought here. I fought with my dad every day about the war. He was a “hawk” and I was a “dove.” We loved each other, but we fought. A lot of people at home fought about the war over there. It was a mini-civil war.

Because of the fighting at home and abroad, I decided to live my life trying not to fight. I have found that it is much easier to say “They shouldn’t fight over there” than to keep peace in one’s own family, one’s own neighborhood, one’s own workplace. Peace-making is a lifelong effort.

Last night I watched the first episode of the ten-part, eighteen-hour series "The Vietnam War" directed by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick. The first few minutes showed images of the war as I “knew” it, with famous film and still photos of American soldiers and civilians as well as Vietnamese soldiers and civilians. A lot of death. I had to keep fighting back tears and I thought, I may not be able to watch this.  

But then the documentary settled into a mostly linear history lesson that showed Vietnam fraught with a century of struggle for freedom. Not only did the Vietnamese people fight their French colonial overlords, but they fought each other over politics and religion. The Chinese got involved, and the Japanese, and various Communist persuasions. The country was a snake pit.

A misunderstanding

Ken Burns takes the stand that the U.S. became involved in Vietnam mostly because of a misunderstanding. When Vietnam finally shed the French, it was a move for independence – which Americans should surely understand. We too had a colonial overlord in Britain. One of the most amazing sequences in the first episode is where you get a bird’s eye view of North Vietnamese fighters. You can’t see anything. Then they all move, and you realize they’re completely camouflaged. I came to admire their genius and their desire to be free. . . something I never thought of before.

Although Americans would naturally relate to a Vietnamese desire for freedom, the time of Vietnam independence was an era of rising fear of Communism in the West. The domino theory caught on: If we let one country fall to Communism, they will all fall just as a line of dominoes falls after you tap the first one.

The leader of Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh, was a Communist, and Americans branded all Communism as the same. Ironically, not long before the U.S. sent troops to fight Ho Chi Minh, we sent him military advisors – when we approved of his fight. It reminded me of how the U.S. armed Osama bin Laden before he became our enemy.

Yesterday and today

And the snake pit of Vietnam reminded me of the snake pit of the Middle East. . . another place with a history we’ll never completely understand.

What I can’t figure out – and what I don’t think Ken Burns addressed – is why France wanted Vietnam in the first place. There was no mention of oil that I caught. I can’t imagine that France wanted Vietnam’s rice. Were their ports so valuable on the world stage? Or is the very aim of colonialism to acquire as many countries as possible, as if the globe is a giant Monopoly game?

Like France, we entered the snake pit of Vietnam, just as now we have entered the snake pit of the Middle East.

Why do we keep entering snake pits? Americans don’t consider themselves a colonial power. But they do see themselves as “saviors.” We were trying to save the Vietnamese from the Communists. And we’re trying to save the Middle East from the Islamic State.

Bullets have no eyes

Last winter I met a Vietnamese man who ran a beauty parlor. We got to talking about the war. “My father fought with the American soldiers against the Viet Cong,” he told me. “At one point, my whole family and all our neighbors hid inside a church to escape the violence. The Americans and South Vietnamese soldiers were shooting guns right outside the church.”

“But they were on your side,” I said.

“That’s true, but bullets have no eyes,” he answered.

I am happy that along with the airing of this documentary, there is outreach to people who are suffering as a result of that long-ago war. Bullets have no eyes, and war casts long shadows. I hope to God that people will get help.

Minor gripes

I thought Burns overdid the backwards running of famous sequences – the nine-year-old naked Phan Thi Kim Phuc running from Napalm, the Vietnamese man getting shot in the head, the Buddhist monk on fire, and others.

I also got tired of the flipping from a linear history before U.S. involvement to battle scenes with U.S. soldiers in, say,1969. I found the back-and-forth jarring. I think Burns did this to keep people interested. But I believe that anyone who watches the series is already interested.

We are still trying to understand.


Gail Grenier is the author of Dog Woman, Don't Worry Baby, Dessert First, and Calling All Horses, all available on